6. New York Mets (91-71) at 3. Montreal Expos (95-67)
This series features a pair of teams that were forced to scrape and claw until the regular season’s final day to secure playoff holds. Montreal lost out on the second seed by a game, but outlasted Cincinnati to claim a fifth consecutive NL North crown. The Mets were forced to turn to uber-ace Walt Hernandez on the final day of the regular season just to get into the playoffs, winning a season-ending series with the Nats and stealing the final wildcard spot by a single game.
The Mets feature baseball’s third best pitching staff and posted a team ERA of 3.55 in the regular season. New York will need its stable of young starters to shine if it hopes to advance against a Montreal offense that finished the year with 867 runs scored, the top producing offense in the National League.
The Expos had little trouble with New York’s pitching in the regular season, winning seven of the 10 regular season tilts between the clubs. With a respectable pitching staff and high-powered offense I see little trouble ahead for the Expos, who should survive to take on Philadelphia in the divisional round.
Prediction: Montreal handles the Mets, 3-0
5. Cincinnati Reds (94-68) at 4. San Francisco Giants (84-78)
Exceeding all expectations, the Reds were one of the National League’s top teams this season, vying for the NL North title until the final weekend of the season. Losing out to Montreal may have been a blessing in disguise as Cincinnati travels to San Francisco for its wildcard matchup. The Giants cruised through the first half of the season but were just 33-38 after the All-Star break and had to fend off the hard charging Diamondbacks at season’s end.
This will be a series of polar-opposites, as the Reds led the NL with 313 homeruns and finished third with 846 runs scored and will rely heavily on the bat of MVP candidate Douglas Carpenter (.304, 61 HR, 137 RBI); while San Fran counters with stellar pitching highlighted by Cy Young hopeful Graham Ardoin (16-5, 2.57 ERA). Ardoin and the Giants posted the third-best team ERA in the NL this season, at 3.80.
Prediction: Cincinnati’s offense is too much for the G-men, 3-1